Sunday, July 1, 2012

ready... set... blog!

Beef Broth by joana hard, on Flickr
Start by jakeandlindsay, on Flickr

So I've been spreading my opinions on forums and other people's blogs for quite some time now and it's about time I got my own space. Come on in, pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable and let me tell you a bit about me and why we need another blog...

My name is Jackie and I'm a 50 year old disabled woman.

T2 diabetes

It began with a diagnosis of T2 diabetes back when I was in graduate school, working on a PhD in biochemistry. I lived with that for a couple decades, managing my bG levels primarily with diet, by greatly restricting carbohydrate.

I was hospitalized with a case of acute pancreatitis 6 years ago, and though told it had nothing to do with my diabetes, I lost control of my bG thereafter.

My bG ran over 300 mg/dL after the pancreatitis, even fasting for 2-3 days at a time wouldn't bring it down. And I knew I had to go to the doctor, and knew he would prescribe insulin, and so I... procrastinated.

Here is the problem... we are threatened with insulin from the beginning, told that if we aren't "good", we will "have" to go on insulin. After hearing that for year after year, and that we are "lucky" because we don't "have" to be on insulin like a T1, insulin usage becomes a pretty intimidating thing.

It turns out that insulin shots are no big deal at all. That finger-pricking business one does to check bG on a monitor hurts much worse than the insulin shots. In fact, I am now of the opinion that every T2 diabetic ought to be taught to use insulin as soon as they're diagnosed. Not only would that reduce the fear of "having" to go on insulin, it would also allow diabetics to control their bG when ill, when bG go through the roof whether you're eating or not.

But I digress (you will find that I do that a lot). After a year of procrastinating with my bG through the roof, I had a big, fat heart attack. They were unable to clear the blocked artery with an angioplasty, so I had to have a coronary artery bypass graft.

And I learned to use insulin while in the hospital. Morphine really blunts the fear!


I was told it would take about 3 months to recover from the CABG.

It's been five years so far.

I have suffered from chronic pain and debilitating fatigue to varying degrees throughout that time.

There have been a lot of steps towards recovery. If I wrote about them all now, this post would be the length of an Anne Rice novel. Because I do want to write about them all eventually, I have a page set aside for my medical history, so I can add links as I blog about various things that have helped or hindered my recovery.

The short version is that I tried everything mainstream medicine had to offer, then began trying various alternative things as well.

While researching, I learned that biochemistry had come a long way since I was in grad school. As had nutritional science, which had learned a lot since Linus Pauling (my hero!) Even though I can no longer work and have plenty of time to read and research, I can't keep up with it all.

The thing that struck me about the advances in nutritional science, that we'd discovered all these new compounds (e.g. a whole bunch of new flavanoids and vitamin K2) and that we'd learned things like that many of us do not convert beta-carotene to vitamin A efficiently, was that one really couldn't count on supplements because we don't know what to put in them. While I greatly enjoy chemistry, we simply don't know enough to count on our knowledge when health is at stake. We need to be eating real food.

traditional foods

In researching alternative ideas, I ran across both the reasonable and the completely wacky. But running across the traditional foods movement really struck a chord with me.

I'd always cooked from scratch, as I'd gone through college and graduate school as a single parent, and it was the only way to be able to afford to eat. After I got in the workforce, I spent a few years splurging and eating out a lot, but eventually got back to cooking just cause my food was so much better than what I could get in all but the most expensive restaurants.

While working and having problems with my then-teenage daughter, I began gardening, and found it very therapeutic. I was entirely into growing vegetables and herbs, with little interest in the decorative type of gardening.

Then when I got burnt out on corporate America, I began having aspirations towards homesteading, and I expanded my cooking even further, even baking my own bread from grain I bought and ground at home.

So the whole notion of this holistic eating-well movement was attractive to my personality as well as fitting in with my logic that real food was the only answer to health since we just don't know enough to do it any other way.

I tested one simple idea from the traditional foods movement, I began drinking raw milk. At the time, I hadn't been to any of my doctors in a while, having become discouraged with mainstream medicine, so my prescriptions for an ace inhibitor and beta-blocker had expired. In fact, my blood pressure had remained high even with ever-increasing dosages, so I'd gotten discouraged and stopped checking it. After drinking raw milk for a couple months, I finally went back to the doctor and when the nurse checked my BP, it was in the normal range without meds!

So I was a convert to the traditional foods movement.

ideas percolating in my little brain a couple years ago

I read about a lot of things in addition to traditional foods.

My favorite cardiologist, Dr. Davis, taught me a lot about preventative cardiology, but had some random bug up his butt about wheat for some reason. I mean, of course carbohydrates are bad for people who by definition have trouble digesting carbohydrates, but why wheat specifically? Potatoes are bad for diabetics too!

Then there was the time I spent learning to correct my adrenal insufficiency and reverse T3 issues. One of the moderators adrenals group was diagnosed with celiac and she began prosletyzing about the gluten-free casein-free diet all over the place.

I exchanged several emails with a brilliant physician, Dr Myhill, who had done some very interesting work on mitochondrial dysfunction as one possible cause of chronic fatigue. She had published on her site what she called the Stone Age diet, similar to what has know become a bit of a phenomenon known as paleo or primal eating. Again, wheat was banned.

Of the many places one could go to chat about traditional foods, KerryAnn ran the most supportive and comfortable forum. Most of the folks there were dealing with various food intolerances, issues with gluten, casein and egg allergies were common. And many of the folks with these issues in the traditional foods movement were doing something called GAPS, a diet intended to heal and seal the gut. Many found it actually healed food intolerances, and others found it cured them of autoimmune issues as apparently having a leaky gut can cause autoimmune disorders.

Of course, none of this stuff applied to me. I never had GI issues, beyond constipation that resolved when I got my reverse T3 straightened out. I had no known food intolerances. And everyone knows it is T1 that is the autoimmune kind of diabetes, we T2s have a metabolic disorder that apparently begins in the liver.

There were a few strange ideas about diabetes in my head too. I never understood why GI surgery should reverse insulin resistance. I mean, it doesn't help the liver in any way to cut out bits of the GI tract...

Also, there were these people I read about who had disabling and even life-threatening GI infections with Clostridium difficile and some of them were being treated by fecal transplants. Sounds gross, but... the one woman was cured of T2 diabetes after receiving a transplant from her husband. And that is a very strange idea, that changing your gut bacteria could effect insulin resistance.

ideas percolating in my little brain recently

After the huge improvements I saw straightening out my adrenal and thyroid issues, I stopped improving. And I went a good year with no improvement, which was frankly kind of depressing. I didn't do a whole lot of researching or focusing on health, being a bit burnt out on the whole thing. I was slipping badly on my diet, cause if I'm not going to get better anyway, why not have a hot fudge sundae? And my bG slipped again too, because to tightly control bG, you have to count everything you eat and dose appropriately which takes up a lot of time and energy. When you have chronic fatigue, and are feeling hopeless on top of it, it is hard to invest the energy to be "good".

When I decided to get back to it, I decided to try treating Candida. I've been diabetic a long time, I've had multiple vaginal yeast infections over the years, so it seemed a possibility that addressing that might improve my health. I decided to try ThreeLac because it's proponents claim it will treat yeast even without going on the Candida diet, and I wasn't done being naughty yet.

I will post about my ThreeLac experience later, but the long and short of it is, in 6 months on the stuff, my energy increased tenfold, my pain decreased tremendously, I lost 45 pounds and I regained my sense of hopefulness about the future.

As such, I began visiting some of my old health haunts now and again.

I found that Dr. Davis had graduated from part-time ranting against wheat to full-time ranting, he'd written an entire book, Wheat Belly. There are a lot of fascinating ideas in the book, but one I carried around for a while was that you can have celiac as shown by antibody tests without any GI symptoms. Interesting.

One day I emailed Dr Myhill about something, and while I was at it, I told her about my ThreeLac experience. She wrote back with an interesting notion, that my body had an autoimmune reaction to my microflora, that the ThreeLac had displaced it, and I'd better fix up my leaky gut before my body started reacting to these new tenants of my GI tract.

The thing with talking with folks about adrenal insufficiency, thyroid disorders, food intolerances and chronic fatigue is, most of these patients are not diabetic (and conversely, when talking to diabetics, most of them do not have these other issues). For me, the thing that went wrong first was the T2.

So when I thought about what Dr Myhill said, my first thought was "my problems started with diabetes and T2 isn't an autoimmune disease".

And my second thought was to Google, so I typed in "autoimmune T2 diabetes".

"T2 is an autoimmune disease!"

I shrieked to my husband. He had no idea why I was so excited.

Because I know what to do about autoimmune disease... go to Amazon and buy Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

why another blog

I began collecting ideas, recipes and researching, and considered setting up a journal to organize all this information.

Trying to Google about GAPS and T2 yielded very little information. No one seemed to have tried this yet; I was attempting something new.

And that, dear reader, is why this blog exists, to document my experience for myself and you. This is why I need to have my thoughts organized in one spot, instead of strewn across everyone else's blogs and forums. This is a topic I expect to become uniquely qualified to discuss rather rapidly.

If T2 is an autoimmune disease, and autoimmune diseases begin with a sick gut, this explains why GI surgery can cure T2, why a fecal transplant could cure it. It could be a very exciting experiment!

Join me on the journey! Even if you're neither diabetic nor on GAPS, there will be lots of interesting discussion in the coming months...

Disclosure: Affiliate